Clutch Performer: Installing A Valair Dual-Disc Unit

With 150,000 miles on the odometer and a telltale squeak at idle, it was clear that my 2004 Dodge 3500 Laramie 4×4’s clutch and its release bearing needed some attention. Rather than simply driving down to the dealer for an OEM clutch replacement, I considered my needs. I make off-road videos for a living, and the Dodge is my portable base camp. It spends most of its time with an 11-foot camper shell on its back and a 5,000-lb Jeep in tow, and the destination isn’t always paved. If ever a truck was crying out for a heavy-duty clutch, this is it—but I didn’t want a clutch so stiff that I’d need Popeye’s leg strength to shift gears.

1 & 2 A 2004 Dodge can have either a G56 or NV5600 six-speed transmission; a quick phone call to the local dealer identified this truck as having the NV5600. The Valair QNV56DDSN-ORG kit includes a dual-disc flywheel, two organic clutch discs, heavy-duty pilot bearing, modified clutch fork, release bearing, 3,800-lb pressure plate, alignment tool, and bolts. The discs are labeled and bolted together with the pressure plate and

After extensive research, I decided on Valair’s Quiet Dual Disc Clutch. Valair’s background is in heavy-duty over-the-road trucks, and they were able to translate this expertise into performance clutches for 3/4- and 1-ton pickups. An example of this technology transfer is that the floater plate (which rides between the two discs) is strapped to the flywheel, which prevents it from rattling when the pedal is depressed—a common annoyance with dual-disc clutches.

According to Valair, the Quiet Dual Disc Clutch’s 3,800-lb diaphragm and dual-disc setup give it the ability to handle up to 550 horsepower and 1,000 lb-ft of torque, with only a slight increase in pedal effort compared to the stock clutch.

3 The optional hydraulics kit comes with an adjustable push rod for the NV5600 transmission and allows the clutch to remain properly adjusted over time. The factory slave and master cylinder are not adjustable.
4 Removing a six-speed manual transmission in a Dodge 3500 4×4 and replacing the clutch requires a lot more than a screwdriver and hammer. For this job is I solicited the expertise of a local shop, Town & Country Tire in Apple Valley, California, where their motto is, “We Do It All, From Hot Rods To Hay Wagons.” Anthony took the lead on this project.
5 After removing and inspecting the NV5600 transmission, Anthony determined that the rear main seal should be replaced. The new seal kit from NAPA included an installation ring to drive the new main seal into position without damaging it. He also replaced the rear seal on the transmission and added five quarts of Mopar synthetic oil.
6 The next step in preparing the NV 5600 for installation is to remove the washer underneath the pivot ball with a ¾-inch deep socket. The bell housing is made of aluminum, so we had to be careful when removing and reinstalling the pivot ball without the washer.
7 Anthony removed the retainer clip and reinstalled it on the painted end of the new clutch fork.
8 The groove inside the release bearing is packed with high-temperature grease before the bearing is snapped into the clutch fork, keeping the same orientation as the stock bearing and fork.

When the transmission was removed from the truck, the old clutch—a single-disc aftermarket unit installed by the previous owner—was nearly worn down to the rivets, the flywheel and pressure plate showed signs of overheating, and the release bearing felt as if it was filled with rocks when it was turned. Clearly, the truck was ready for a new clutch assembly.

Valair recommends a 200-mile break-in during which the truck should be driven in city traffic as much as possible, with low power and minimum loads. City driving is better for break-in than highway driving, which means I’ll have to postpone my next fully loaded trip until break-in is complete.

9 After cleaning the collar and giving it a light coat of high-temp grease, the release bearing and clutch fork are slid into place with the painted end of the fork over the pivot ball. Once the painted end of the fork is snapped into place, the movement of the release bearing is checked for ease of operation.
10 The new flywheel is positioned on the end of the crankshaft and red Loctite squeezed onto the threads of the new bolts before installation. The crankshaft bolts are tightened to 102 ft-lb in a cross pattern, beginning at 30 ft-lb and moving up to 70 ft-lb before the final torque.
11 The first disc is installed with side marked ”flywheel” against the flywheel, followed by the center plate. The red paint markings made it easy to align the center plate and disc with the flywheel. The alignment tool is used to hold the flywheel disc in alignment with pilot bearing, and 3/16-inch hex Allen bolts slide through the wings of the center plate into the flywheel. The strap is attached to the center plate at the factory, leaving us to attach the other end to the flywheel with TP45 or T45 bolts. Anthony applies red Loctite to all the bolts before tightening them to 24 ft-lb.
12 The second disc with the side marked “pressure plate” facing outward and the pressure plate itself are aligned to the red paint marks. The two factory installed studs made it easy to hold the pressure plate in the proper position while the 3/8-inch 12-point bolts are hand tightened.
13 The alignment tool is reinserted through the pressure plate and two discs and into the pilot bearing. Once the clutch is aligned properly, Anthony first snugs the pressure plate to the flywheel using two nuts with lock washers. Then he applies Loctite to the 3/8-inch 12-point pressure plate bolts and torques them to 44 ft-lb in a star pattern. The alignment tool can then be removed.
14The next step is to “stab” the transmission through the clutch and into the pilot bearing. This is the most difficult part of the job; patience is a must, and extra hands really help.

So far I am impressed with the way the clutch reacts: It’s firm, but not stiff or grabby. It takes only slightly more pressure than the previous aftermarket clutch to release the pressure plate, though the window of engagement is shorter than the previous clutch. With a 3,200-lb pressure plate and dual disc surfaces, the Valair clutch will be great for the heavy loads I need to haul, as well as handling the extra power when I finally install that tuner I’ve been thinking about. DW

15 After securing the transmission against the engine, the crossmember holding the transmission mount is installed and the transmission jack removed.
16 Next steps are to install the transfer case and front and rear driveshafts and reconnected the wiring to both the transmission and the transfer case.
17 The shifter and floor console are installed from inside the cab.
18 After unbolting the slave cylinder from the bell housing and the master cylinder from the firewall, the stock, non-adjustable hydraulics can be removed. Three items were reused from the pedal (master) side of the stock hydraulics: the safety switch, the 1/8-inch rubber washer and the thicker foam washer.
19 Once the master cylinder is reassembled, the new slave cylinder is fed down from the engine compartment and bolted onto the bell housing.
20 After mounting the hydraulic fluid reservoir in a convenient location on the firewall, the clutch pedal is adjusted so it’s even with the brake pedal.

Valair Inc.

Town & Country Tire

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